Let’s Ditch Mitch

The Senate majority leader comes out of his shell.

Mitch, on the other hand, has a longstanding alliance with the National Rifle Association, which has shown its affection to the tune of about $1.3 million in support. Anything the N.R.A. dislikes never gets the chance to come up for a Senate vote. Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is moldering away in a corner because the N.R.A. doesn’t want authorities taking guns away from domestic abusers.

It’s been another terrible year of mass shooting violence. One simple, very popular response would be to improve the background checks for gun purchases. It would at least show our elected officials care about the crisis.

Such a bill passed the House of Representatives and went to the Senate where it’s, um, lying around somewhere. “There’s a whole bunch of Republican support, but he won’t let it move to the floor,” said minority leader Chuck Schumer.

This goes on a lot. McConnell, who has near total control over what comes up for a vote, sits on things he doesn’t like until they smother. Farewell, immigration reform, Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, lowering prescription drug prices, protecting election security, restoring net neutrality.

Cruz: GOP may block Supreme Court nominees indefinitely

In a vintage return to his confrontational style, Sen. Ted Cruz indicated that Republicans could seek to block a Democratic president from filling the vacant Supreme Court seat indefinitely.

After staking his endorsement of Donald Trump on a list of potential conservative Supreme Court nominees, Cruz said on Wednesday that there is precedent to limiting the Supreme Court to just eight justices. Last week, Cruz’s colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), suggested the GOP should confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to avoid having to swallow a more liberal nominee under Hillary Clinton.

As is his nature, Cruz took a harder line when asked how Republicans would handle a potential Clinton nominee while campaigning in Colorado for Darryl Glenn, a longshot candidate for the Senate.

“There will be plenty of time for debate on that issue … There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have,” Cruz said, in remarks first reported by The Washington Post.

Cruz was unlikely to vote for any Democratic nominee given his conservative ideology, but his remarks could indicate a broader shift within the GOP to halt Democrats from shifting the court’s balance to the left. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said earlier this month the GOP would be “united” in blocking a Clinton appointment, remarks he later softened.

An indefinite GOP blockade of a Supreme Court nominee would almost certainly lead to an erosion in the Senate’s supermajority requirement. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has already suggested lowering the bar for Supreme Court nominee from 60 votes to a simple majority. Under Reid, Democrats changed the Senate rules to allow all nominees but Supreme Court appointments to be approved by a majority vote.

The Shifting Standards of Mitch McConnell

When it came to filling a Supreme Court vacancy during the 2016 presidential election year, Senator Mitch McConnell had a constant refrain: Let the people decide. But should a high court seat become open in 2020, Mr. McConnell has already decided himself.

Oh, we’d fill it,” Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, gleefully told a friendly Chamber of Commerce audience back home in Paducah on Tuesday.

Mr. McConnell regularly celebrates his history-altering 2016 decision to thwart President Barack Obama from filling a vacancy that occurred with 11 months remaining in his term, saying the seat should be kept open until a new president could be elected and inaugurated. But he has been laying the groundwork to change course ever since Donald J. Trump was elected president. Tuesday’s remarks were only his most definitive: He would not be bound by the standard he himself set in preventing Judge Merrick B. Garland from being seated on the high court.

The comments immediately drew howls of blatant hypocrisy from Democrats and progressive allies. They said it underscored their view that Mr. McConnell was unprincipled and acted out of purely partisan motives in 2016 when he single-handedly decided to blockade Mr. Obama’s choice to replace Antonin Scalia after the court icon’s death that February.

The bad faith behind McConnell’s position on Merrick Garland was obvious to anyone who was paying attention at the time and is a major reason why the public increasingly views the court as a partisan institution,” said Brian Fallon, who heads the progressive judicial advocacy group Demand Justice.

The declaration by Mr. McConnell suggests that the makeup of the Supreme Court will again be a central issue in the 2020 campaigns for the White House and the Senate, particularly with the intensifying fight over abortion rights. The Scalia vacancy was credited with significantly aiding Mr. Trump and cementing his support on the right in 2016. Democrats, stung by the 2016 loss and the failure to seat Judge Garland, have since tried to emphasize the political import of the Supreme Court to their voters through the emergence of groups like Mr. Fallon’s.

The distinction that Mr. McConnell and his allies draw is that in 2016, the process of filling the Supreme Court vacancy was split between Democrats who controlled the White House and Republicans who controlled the Senate. Voters had rendered a split decision, handing the executive to Mr. Obama in 2012 and the Senate to Mr. McConnell two years later, the majority leader argued; therefore, the tiebreaker would go to the winner of the 2016 campaign.

This is a line Mr. McConnell emphasized in October 2018 when he first began indicating that he was more than ready to take up a Trump nominee in 2020, should the chance arise.

“The tradition going back to the 1880s has been if a vacancy occurs in a presidential election year, and there is a different party in control of the Senate than the presidency, it is not filled,” he said.

Who is Mitch McConnell? Narrated by Jon Lovett from Pod Save America | NowThis

Mitch McConnell did everything he could to stonewall Obamacare, even though government health care once saved his life. Jon Lovett from Pod Saves America explains how the longest-serving GOP leader in Senate history went from Kentucky’s least believable frat boy to America’s Super PAC darling.